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Moffat County tops Grand Valley 54-22 in wrestling season opener

Moffat County wrestler Billy Lawton gains top control against a Grand Valley wrestler Tuesday night. Lawton recorded a pin fall against the Cardinals. (Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press)

Moffat County kicked off high school sports Season B in style Tuesday night, rolling to a convincing 54-22 win over the visiting Grand Valley Cardinals from Parachute.

The host Bulldogs came out strong on the mat and benefited late from four forfeits by Grand Valley in the dual meet.

Grand Valley wins came from Hayden Grice (285 pounds) in an 8-3 decision over Daniel Cruz; Teagan Jacobs (106) over Noah Duran by major decision (13-1); and Hector De La Cruz (126) over Anthony Duran, 7-5.

Forfeit wins were recorded for Cardinal wrestlers Isaac Tigert (220) and Brayden Harper (195).

Moffat County sophomore Michael Voloshin, junior Pepper Rhyne, freshman Blake Hill and sophomore Billy Lawton recorded wins by pin fall over Grand Valley’s Dominic Mendoza, Jordan Cedeno, Taylor Drinkhouse and Cristian Barragon, respectively, to lead the Bulldogs.

Senior Blake Juergens didn’t get a chance to compete on the mat one final time at home due to a Grand Valley forfeit in his weight class. But that didn’t dampen his mood on Senior Night.

“It feels pretty good, leave this gym like with a W, you know? I don’t want to leave knowing our last home duel was a loss, at least my last home dual,” Juergens said. “It feels good.”

The first Garfield County wrestling meet of the season is Thursday when Coal Ridge High School hosts Basalt and Glenwood Springs.

Glenwood boys win season opener; Basalt takes girls game honors

The Glenwood Springs Demons and Basalt Longhorns battle for possession of the ball during Tuesday night's season opener game for both team in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Glenwood Springs Demon Breauna Sorenson looks for an open teammate during Tuesday night's season opener against the Basalt Longhorns.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

In an eerily quiet Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, the masked Glenwood Springs Demons hosted the Basalt Longhorns Tuesday to kick off the Covid-shortened 2021 high school basketball season.

The ladies got things started on the night, as Basalt managed to hold on late in the game for a 36-29 win. The nightcap saw the Glenwood boys jump to an early lead, en route to a 50-42 win.

Lady Longhorns start strong

Basalt senior guard Gracie Reardon took matters into her own hands to start the game by hitting a couple of quick 3-pointers and two shots from the free throw line to give her team an early 8-0 edge.

With the Demons playing a bit tentative and trying to shake off a cold shooting start, veteran head coach Rhonda Moser called a timeout with 3:38 to play in the first quarter when her team had yet to get on the scoreboard.

“We were playing really hesitant and passively,” Moser said. “When we got behind, we kind of got that deer in the headlights look and couldn’t seem to shake it.”

Glenwood senior post Graci Dietrich got the Demons going following the timeout with a turnaround jump shot in the lane. A quick scoring answer from Longhorn senior forward Chandra Bohannan came in the form of two foul line makes and a bank shot in the lane to put Basalt ahead by double digits at 12-2.

Demon senior guard Maddie Moser lofted in a banking 3-pointer, and Glenwood sophomores Mattea Enewold and Breauna Sorensen provided a spark off the bench by tallying three free throws and a basket to put Basalt’s halftime lead at 18-10.

Glenwood’s full-court press began to bother the Longhorns to start the second half, as scoring opportunities began to present themselves for the home team.

Junior Miah Suarez scored in the lane as Glenwood looked to gain some much needed momentum, but Basalt’s Reardon notched her third 3-pointer of the night to keep the Demons at bay.

In the game’s final quarter, senior guard Riley Dolan scored twice inside to put Basalt up 34-18. Moser and sophomore Joslyn Spires hit 3-pointers for Glenwood, but with time as its biggest adversary, the Demons came up just short as the clock ticked away.

“We’re still trying to find our player rotations and rhythm. It’s a young team,” Moser said.

Basalt coach Amy Contini was very pleased with her team’s season-opening victory.

“Being in the gym with these kids since August and seeing all of the hard work they have put in is gratifying. They’re good kids and they are driven to get better each night,” said Contini.

Maddie Moser and Spires led Glenwood in scoring with eight and seven points, respectively. Basalt was topped by Reardon with 11 points and Dolan with 10.

The Glenwood girls swing back into action on Friday night with a short trip to Coal Ridge High School to take on the Titans. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Demon boys off to encouraging start

Glenwood senior Omar Bonilla provided an early lift and junior Blake Nieslanik carried the Demon torch just after halftime, as Glenwood raced out to an early 20-6 lead on visiting Basalt, then withstood a furious Longhorn comeback en route to a 50-42 win to open the season.

It was junior guard Aiden Nieslanik who dropped in a 3-pointer to put Glenwood up by the 14-point margin early in quarter number two, but Basalt senior Teegan Card got a couple of baskets in the paint and fellow senior Alonso Silva hit a 3-ball to key a 12-7 second period scoring advantage as the Longhorns trailed just 24-18 at intermission.

With Glenwood’s lead a scant 27-23 in the third period, Blake Nieslanik scored off an inbounds play and hit a basket on a follow shot to put Glenwood up 31-25.

It was Nieslanik scoring again on a nice assist from Bonilla to help stem the Basalt comeback hopes.

In the decisive fourth quarter, junior guard Reid Swanson dropped in a couple of baskets for Glenwood, including a 3-pointer, to go along with baskets by junior Stevie Vega and senior Anthony Aviles. The Demons increased their margin to 44-35 with 4:16 to play, and cruised to victory .

Blake Nieslanik and Bonilla tied for Glenwood’s game scoring honors with 11 points each. Swanson tallied 8 points, with Vega hitting for 7. Basalt was led by Card with 11 points.

Glenwood is back in action for a 7 p.m. game Friday night at Coal Ridge High School.

sports@postindependent.com

Cozy up in front of the computer screen or radio to follow Garfield County high school hoops action

With a limited number of fans allowed in high school gyms for winter season sports due to coronavirus restrictions — or in many cases no fans at all — prep sports enthusiasts may feel left out in the cold.

But, there are ways to watch boys and girls basketball and some of the other Season B sports online. Or, one can also listen in to the radio play-by-play for select games this season.

High schools in Garfield County have arranged with the national high school sports online network, NFHSNetwork.com, to live stream games on a monthly or yearly subscription basis.

“We have the system all set up and should be ready to stream tomorrow night’s games,” Glenwood Springs High School Assistant Athletic Director Jordan DeCrow said.

NFHSNetwork.com offers a yearly all-access subscription for $70, which includes any game or sport across the country that’s part of the network. There’s also a monthly subscription offer for $10.99, which given the usual $5 per-person gate price to get into a game, is a decent option.

While varsity action is under way in the main gym, the sub-varsity games will be webcast live from the auxiliary gym on the GSHS Facebook page, DeCrow said.

KMTS radio is also planning its usual lineup of live-on-the-air and webstreamed broadcasts of select area games (see accompanying schedule of upcoming broadcasts).

Longtime sports announcer Ron Milhorn will be calling the action. But, he’ll be going it alone, as sidekick color commentator Jack Jabbour has been sidelined and in the hospital for the past few weeks with COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, Jack is out of commission,” Milhorn said, adding that will leave him short on some of the game statistics that Jabbour usually keeps track of. “When he’s up to it he might be able to join me again, but until then…”

Because of the earlier start in most cases for the girls games, Milhorn said those games will be streamed at KMTS.com, while the boys games will be live on the air.

While the Roaring Fork Schools (Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork-Carbondale and Basalt high schools) will not allow fans in the gym for games, Garfield Re-2 Schools (Rifle and Coal Ridge) are allowing up to 50 home fans, primarily parents of players, Coal Ridge boys coach Paul Harvey said.

“It will be home fans only,” he said. “The Western Slope League policy is that no away fans are allowed.”

Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale is also coordinating with NFHSNetwork for streaming of its varsity basketball games. Junior varsity games will be livestreamed on Instagram at #RFHS_RamAthletics, said RFHS Athletic Director Dominic Yoder.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Upcoming Prep Sports Schedules

Week of Jan. 25

(Games livestreamed by subscription at NFHSNetwork.com)

BASKETBALL

Tuesday, Jan. 26

Glenwood Springs girls vs. Basalt, 4:30 p.m. (KMTS live stream)

Glenwood Springs boys vs. Basalt, 6:15 p.m. (KMTS on air and streamed)

Wednesday, Jan. 27

Coal Ridge boys @ Steamboat Springs, 6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 28

Rifle girls @ Grand Valley, 5:30 p.m. (KMTS live stream)

Rifle boys @ Grand Valley, 7 p.m. (KMTS on the air and streamed)

Roaring Fork girls vs. Olathe, 5:30 p.m.

Roaring Fork boys vs. Olathe, 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 29

Coal Ridge girls vs. Glenwood Springs, 5:30 p.m. (KMTS live stream)

Coal Ridge boys vs. Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m. (KMTS on the air and streamed)

Saturday, Jan. 30

Grand Valley girls @ Eagle Valley, 1 p.m.

Grand Valley boys @ Eagle Valley, 2:30 p.m.

GIRLS SWIMMING

Saturday, Jan. 30

Glenwood Springs @ Summit Triangular, 10 a.m.

WRESTLING

Thursday, Jan. 28

Coal Ridge Triangular (Glenwood Springs, Coal Ridge and Basalt), 6 p.m.

It’s go time: Area high school hoops teams ready to mask up, play ball

Glenwood Springs High School varsity basketball players practice in the old gym at the school during the first week of practices.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

At long last, high school basketball teams return to the court this week as part of Colorado’s revamped winter sports lineup, which has been delayed since November due to the coronavirus.

Playing under strict protocols including a requirement to wear masks while playing and on the sideline, and with no fans allowed in the stands for most schools, Garfield County teams enter the 2021 campaign with one objective — let’s just play!

Action begins Tuesday when the Glenwood Springs High School Demons boys and girls host the Basalt Longhorns. Games will be broadcast live on KMTS radio.

Here’s a look at what area teams are working with this season.

CLASS 4A

GLENWOOD SPRINGS BOYS

The Demons might have an “X” marked on their backs this season after a fourth consecutive 4A Western Slope League title and undefeated conference season last year.

Ending the season in the Great 8 of the state tournament at 22-4, the Demons graduated four all-conference players and seven seniors altogether.

“People are going to be shooting for us,” third-year head coach Fred Heisel said. “They’re going to be thinking that, (they’re) young now and now’s our time to get em … we’re going to have a target on our back all year.”

The Demons, however, still return some good experience. Heisel will have at his disposal the likes of juniors Blake Nieslanik, Aiden Nieslanik and Reid Swanson.

“We’re shorter this year, as well as younger,” Heisel said.

Heisel anticipates Steamboat Springs, Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Summit to be tough tests for Glenwood in the league this season.

Heisel will look to his team to overcome their youth as the season progresses.

“We’re building toward the end,” he said. “The championship is at the end of the year. We just have to be ready for that one.”

Glenwood plays Basalt 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, and travels to Coal Ridge on Friday.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS GIRLS

Also coming off a league championship, an undefeated conference season and an overall 21-4 record, the Glenwood Lady Demons graduated six seniors.

But a returning core of five players who saw ample varsity game time last season should make for a solid title defense.

Topping the roster are seniors Graci Dietrich and Maddie Moser, along with juniors Ella Johnson and Kenzie Winder and sophomore Joslyn Spires.

“Our kids are just excited to get to play, finally,” head coach Rhonda Moser said. “We never guessed when we went to the Sweet 16 last season that we wouldn’t be able to set foot back in the gym for 10 months.”

A deep bench and an ability to spread the ball around will again define the Lady Demons attack, Moser said.

“That’s the type of program I like to run,” she said. “We’re not super tall, but I think we’ll be pretty quick.”

Teams to beat in the league include Palisade and Steamboat Springs.

Following the home opener at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday versus Basalt, the Demons travel the short distance to play Coal Ridge on Friday.

RIFLE BOYS

Coming off a 10-14 season last year, Rifle boys basketball looks to lean on a bench full of juniors and sophomores this season.

Head coach Kyle Daniell said his team this year may not be the oldest, but they definitely have some good experience returning to the court.

Among the 30 players who came out for high school basketball this season, Daniell will look to some of his key players for leadership and production, including Tido Ruiz, Danny Carreon and Kade Bisop.

“We are extremely excited for the season,” Daniell said. “We feel very fortnaturte to get the season rolling. We got games on the horizon, (and) we feel really blessed to play this season because it could be a lot worse.”

Daniell said Rifle right now looks like they have all the pieces to make a successful season.

“Handling the challenge is right now day to day,” he said. “Just like life, we have challenges all the time. There’s a lot of good lessons we can learn.”

Among the Western Slope teams, Daniell said Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs and Eagle Valley will likely make formidable opponents this season.“One thing I do know,” Daniell said, “our league is strong.”

The first game of the season for Rifle boys is slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Grand Valley High School.

RIFLE GIRLS

Rifle girls basketball coach Eric Caro may have lost five key seniors to graduation, but that’s no reason to count the Bears out.

“I think people are writing us off because we lost five seniors, but we’ve had a lot of girls be really hungry this off season,” Caro said.

The Bears finished 10-15 overall last season, but a strong finish propelled Rifle into the state playoffs.

though the Bears are still young this season, Caro said his players are ready to play and work hard. In addition, he’s confident they can safely navigate their way through COVID-19.

“I think our parents have all been pretty responsible with how they’ve managed themselves and trying to do what’s best for the kids,” he said.

“We just want to compete and steal some wins,” he added.

Opponents to watch out for in 4A ball this season include Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Palisade.

Rifle’s tipoff to the season starts with an away game against Grand Valley High School, 6 p.m. Thursday.

“Oh man, we’re pumped,” Caro said. “Thursday night cannot come soon enough.”

CLASS 3A

ROARING FORK BOYS

A rough start and a tough nonconference schedule for the Roaring Fork boys last season made for a bumpy road, but the Rams return locked and loaded for the 2021 campaign.

Roaring Fork finished 6-16 overall last year, but a respectable finish and a 4-5 3A Western Slope League mark was encouraging, second-year coach Tony Gross said.

Now, after the delayed start to the season, the Rams are ready to butt heads for a shot at the league title.

Last year’s leading scorer, Graham Pietch, returns for his senior year, and the Rams will have some size inside with 6-3 senior Tristan Maker and fellow senior, 6-1 Julian Alcantara.

“I think we’ll be pretty strong with seven seniors on the team, and all of them having varsity experience,” Gross said.

Another strength should be a deep bench, with ability to rotate in as many as 10 or 11 players, he said.

“We’ve been going at it pretty hard, but the kids are tired of practicing and just want to start playing,” Gross said.

The league should be strong as usual, with as many as five or six teams likely vying for the top spot come playoff time.

The Rams open at home Thursday against Olathe. Game time is 7 p.m.

ROARING FORK GIRLS

Led by All-Conference player and Coe College signee senior Maya Lindgren, the Roaring Fork girls will be looking to improve on a strong 2019-20 season to make a run for the league title.

“We should be tough again, with several returning players and some young players who are looking really good,” second-year coach Juan Quintero said.

The Rams finished 13-10 overall and 6-3 in the league last year, and have several players who saw a lot of playing time last year on the court again. Among them are seniors Lily Nieslanik and Letey Crownhart and juniors Genesis Quintero and Sienna Pargiter-Walker.

“They played a lot of minutes last year for varsity,” Coach Quintero said. “We lost three senior starters, but we’re still a pretty experienced team.”

The girls open their 2021 campaign in the early game Thursday versus Olathe, at 5:30 p.m.

COAL RIDGE BOYS

Coming off a 14-7 overall season and 7-2 run in the 3A Western Slope League that included a bitter loss to Gunnison for the league title, Coal Ridge looks to a seasoned group of returning players to renew the effort.

The Titans graduated their hot hand from the outside, Austin Gerber, but look to this year’s seniors Moses Contreras, Hank DiMarco, Karsen Dubois, Andrew Herrera and Irvin Ortega to fill the gap.

“We’re very excited to finally get to play, and I think everyone is a little on edge until it actually happens,” veteran Coal Ridge coach Paul Harvey said. “It’s the longest offseason we’ve ever had, so it’s definitely been outside the normal.”

But a lack of practice time and the COVID-19 protocols will be something all of the teams the Titans face will be contending with, he noted.

“Every game counts a little more this season,” Harvey said. “And the mask thin, our guys have been wearing them and aren’t complaining. We look at this whole thing as a sign of strength. I hope it makes us all stronger.”

Coal Ridge opens its season Wednesday on the road at Steamboat Springs, and returns for the home opener against Glenwood Springs on Friday.

Coals Ridge games can be viewed via live webstream at NFHS network.

COAL RIDGE GIRLS

With a good number of top scorers returning to Coal Ridge basketball this season, head coach Clyde Morgan said he’s excited to get back to action.

“I think everybody’s just ready to get out and do something,” he said. “It’s been a while since a lot of the kids have played any type of sports.”

Coal Ridge, which went 11-10 last season (5-4 league), will likely lean on the likes of senior Taylor Weiscamp, Kallie Bumgardner, Rae Nelson and Mikayla Cheney, as well as Jackie Camunez, a sophomore who’ll score some big points for the Titans.

A notable loss to graduation, however, includes Lyanna Nevarez.

“Losing her is going to hurt a little bit but we have some girls that can step up into that position,” Morgan said. ”(We’re) really going to try to get the ball up and down the floor and see what happens.”

Morgan said Moffat County, Delta, Grand Valley, Roaring Fork and Basalt will all be formidable opponents to watch out for in class 3A.

“It’s always a battle every night whenever we play,” he said.

Coal Ridge starts the season with a home game against Glenwood Springs 5:30 p.m. Friday.

GRAND VALLEY BOYS

Grand Valley boys basketball went 12-8 last season, and head coach Jeremy Tanner is optimistic his team can build off that this year — especially knowing opposing teams will have their own hurdles to overcome,

“I think depth is going to be a big issue for teams this year,” he said. “Besides being there’s short time to prepare and get conditioned as a lot of coaches would want, on top of that having to wear masks and stuff … I really think that’s going to play into the cards this season.”

Returning this season for the Cardinals include go-to players Emilio and Enrique Garcia. They look to make up for the losses of now former Cards Louis Magallanes and Alex Cornejo.

“I’m excited to see what they’ll do,” Tanner said of the Garcias.

Tanner also said this year the Cardinals are set to play 14 games in five weeks, referring to it as “fast and furious.”

“It’s going to be a marathon,” he said.

Tanner anticipates Gunnison, Moffat County and Coal Ridge to be strong opponents for Grand Valley this year.

Grand Valley hosts Rifle High School at 7 p.m. Thursday.

GRAND VALLEY GIRLS

Grand Valley girls basketball ended last season with a notable 16-7 record.

That was with the help of Kirstin Medina, Loghan Teeter, Jordyn Pittman and Taygann Schoeppner — all since graduated.

Still, Cardinals head coach Scott Parker said his young team still has something to bring to the table.

“We’ll have quite a few younger players on the floor, but we’ve got some good skill, so I’m excited about that,” he said. “We’ve got some pretty athletic kids and we’re going to try and take advantage of that.”

Beyond everything else, the Cardinals are excited to get back to the court.

“The girls haven’t been able to play sports all school year, so we’re definitely looking forward to it,” he said.

Under the unique circumstances of COVID-19, Parker acknowledged that his team will have to overcome challenges — but so will everyone else.

“Most definitely, but everyone in the state plays in the same challenges,” he said. “I think the team that doesn’t let the challenges get in the way, I think will be better for it.”

Parker anticipates Delta, Roaring Fork and Moffat County to have good teams this year.

“I’m excited to coach these girls and see where we can go,” he said.

Grand Valley hosts its first game of the season against Rifle High School 6 p.m. Thursday.

sports@postindependent.com

Roaring Fork’s Lindgren signs to play college hoops at Iowa’s Coe

Roaring Fork High School senior Maya Lindgren has committed to play college basketball at Coe College in Iowa.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Maya Lindgren had always considered herself “more of a softball girl,” until she started getting some serious looks on the basketball court during her junior season at Roaring Fork High School last year.

“I’ve always played both sports … throughout high school, but when I started getting a little bit of interest from (basketball) coaches, it made me think, hey, maybe I am good enough for this,” Lindgren said.

That “this” ended up being a letter of commitment signed during the winter holiday break to play basketball for NCAA Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The dual-sport student-athlete was named to the 3A Western Slope League All-Conference first team for softball as one of two Carbondale players on the Basalt Longhorns team last fall.

And, it was her impressive stats on the hardwood during the 2019-20 basketball season — 12.8 points per game (including multiple 25+ point games), a 38% shooting percentage, and 295 total points — that earned her a first-team All-Conference selection for basketball, as well.

Maya Lindgren looks to go baseline in 2019-20 season action at Roaring Fork High School.
John Stroud/Post Independent file

Lindgren had offers from several different colleges, but she said Coe seemed to be the best fit both academically and athletics-wise.

“It’s huge, honestly,” Lindgren said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to play at the collegiate level. I just think it’s really cool to be able to pursue one of the things I love after high school … I’m just really proud of myself.”

Lindgren enters her senior basketball season as the Rams’ starting point guard and team captain, an honor she was bestowed her junior year by Roaring Fork head coach Juan Quintero.

“One of the things we always talk about is being really positive with each other as teammates, and that’s something Maya does well,” Quintero said. “She’s been a great leader for the team, and really helps the other girls out on the court and on the sideline.”

Talent-wise, “Maya is one of most skilled players I’ve seen in 3A basketball,” Quintero said. “Her skill level off the dribble is by far the best in our league, and last year she really came out of her shell and showed that leadership ability, too.”

Lindgren has played varsity most of her four years at RFHS, and has been playing basketball since elementary school in the Carbondale youth recreation league and at Carbondale Middle School.

Born and raised in Carbondale, she is the daughter of Ann and Olle Lindgren.

Maya said she’s looking forward to her senior season at Roaring Fork, even with all of the COVID-19 public health protocols that will be among the challenges.

“We lost some talented girls (to graduation) last year, but I’m excited for some of these younger girls to come in and have a chance to step up and take some of the weight for the team,” Lindgren said.

Formal practices begin Monday, but the informal practices have been going well, she said.

“We’re working really well as a team,” she said. “With COVID, we all have to make sure we’re putting ourselves in smart situations and not risking the team.”

She’s also looking forward to the opportunity to play basketball with her younger sister, Nora, who is a freshman member of the Rams this season.

“That’s really exciting,” she said.

“One of the things I need to work on is the mental game,” she added. “Basketball is a really mental sport, so part of it for me is getting mentally and physically prepared for the college level.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Rifle High School welcomes one of its own as new athletics director

New Rifle High School Athletic Director Chris Bomba.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

There’s no better time than now to focus on what truly matters.

“I think with anything like this — and I try to have this attitude my whole life — is that you always have two options,” Chris Bomba said. “You can either let it beat you down and keep you down, or you can find the positives in it and try to drive the right direction.”

“What’s positive right now? We have basketball and we have wrestling,” he added. “There are states out there that are canceling.”

Bomba, a former Western State (now Western Colorado University) thrower originally from Moffat County, started this week as Rifle High School’s new athletics director, taking over for Damon Wells. He’s now at the helm of helping to navigate Garfield District Re-2 sports through some of the most unique circumstances known to modern-day athletics in Colorado.

If there’s an activities administrator out there in the U.S. who isn’t inundated with meetings with fellow athletic directors, state officials on yet another COVID-19 update or season schedule tweaks, they’re probably not doing their job.

But the 42-year-old Rifle High School head track coach and science teacher maintains a positive outlook, not just toward his new role as athletics director, but for the students recently given the opportunity to enjoy their last hurrah before graduating.

Jan. 18 — the first official practice day of Season B sports across the state — couldn’t come any sooner.

“I lived through track last year when it got canceled,” Bomba said. “For the seniors, that was their last chance at state. And the crying? That was so hard. So for us to be able to have a season … I’m beside myself.”

“It’s awesome.”

Bomba’s story takes place just about 90 miles up the road, in Craig. It was then, growing up a Bulldog, he was instilled with the inspiration to pursue a life of physical competition.

“I had a teacher in middle school that told me I needed to stick with sports,” he said. “It was one of the best things anybody could tell me. Sports have just been a mainstay in myself because of the positive things that I’ve gotten out of it.”

A 1997 graduate of Moffat County High School, Bomba would spend his time in high school learning to overcome adversity in varsity Bulldogs track and football.

“We had great coaches, we had great teammates at that time” he said. “We pushed ourselves to be the best. And if you weren’t — if you were slacking? It wasn’t like people were jerks about it, they were just like, C’mon, man … let’s go.’”

“We built ourselves up and worked our tails off to do the things we did.”

Bomba went on to represent Moffat County for Western State, throwing two years for the Mountaineers. But it was right after graduation when he got his first taste of coaching.

Bomba said he’d coach two years at Western before deciding the $2,000-a-year paycheck wasn’t going to cut it, so he took up a full-time position in Cedaredge, coaching middle school basketball and football. He also helped coach high school track and football.

Then, around 2010, Bomba moved to Garfield County, where he began teaching at Rifle Middle School. He’d also start coaching volleyball, basketball and football.

And, for the past five years, Bomba has been head coach of Rifle High School Track and Field.

Rifle High School Principal John Arledge said he was excited to announce Bomba’s new position as athletic director.

“Chris comes to us with experience as a successful head track coach and someone that has experience at both the middle and high school level athletics,” he recently wrote to RHS staff. “Chris was a college track athlete at Western State and was also a successful high school athlete coming from Moffat County.

Arledge also described Bomba as an outstanding science teacher who had served as a special education teacher at the Rifle Middle School.

“We are lucky to have such a qualified candidate that was here internally, and it is our hope that RHS welcomes Chris in his new capacity,” Arledge wrote.

Bomba said such an undertaking during such weird times is something he’s ready for; that the challenges ahead will be tough now, but will make life a lot easier in the future.

“I think it’s going to make me — for me, personally — a stronger person,” he said. “And I think it’s gonna make our kids — even though they don’t see it yet — stronger. It’s going to be a great story and it’s going to be a great story for your kids later on in life.”

“And next year, if it’s a normal year? Next year’s going to be easy.”

rerku@postindependent.com

Colorado High School Activities Association directives behind basketball mask requirement

The Garfield County District Re-2 school board was met with several public comments Monday regarding how the district will move forward with winter sports safety rules.

“My son is in seventh grade, and this would’ve been his first year to have an opportunity to play basketball for his school,” Andrea Murr stated in a letter sent to the school board. “He was excited to do so. However, as soon as he heard he would have to wear a mask, he said he would not play.”

With the first games of “Season B sports” — ice hockey, girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, wrestling and girls swimming — slated for Jan. 25, some athletes will be required to wear masks during game play. In addition, the games themselves will be limited to 50 spectators, 24 team participants and essential personnel, which includes coaches, referees and scorekeepers, among others.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there are a few exemptions to the mask rule during games and matches, but basketball is not among them.

“… we will only exempt athletes from the statewide indoor mask order when they are actively involved in wrestling, spirit, and aquatics, and masks remain required when they are not actively participating, for example when the athlete is between events,” the CDPHE stated in the letter, which regarded the approval of a statewide variance to allow live sports.

Re-2 officials confirmed on Monday the upcoming COVID-19 rules they aim to follow during live game play is in fact being implemented by the Colorado High School Activities Association, which is under the direction of the CDPHE. The regulations also follow Garfield County’s level orange dial metric.

Another comment questioned whether wearing a mask during vigorous exercise is a safe practice, stating that Garfield County commissioners, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise against it.

“It is child abuse,” Sherronna Bishop said over a video communications broadcast of the meeting. “They know we shouldn’t be doing it, they know it’s dangerous.”

During discussion, Re-2 board member Katie Mackley said that if the district does not in fact follows the COVID-19 guidelines, it could be problematic.

“If we choose to not follow these guidelines, no one will come play us,” she said.

CHSAA does have the power to penalize any individual or team under its jurisdiction if they’re caught not following the rules put in place. Director of facilities John Oldham said this could include barring a team from participating in postseason play.

“Therefore, we have to follow the rules of CHSSA or we are not allowed to participate in sports,” board member Tom Slappey said.

Mackley encouraged parents to take their energies to the CDPHE to try and lobby for looser restrictions. She used the NCAA as an example, saying they test their players for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

Until restrictions are loosened, the general consensus is to follow the rules to avoid being penalized.

“If we really put our children at the base of this debate and we use common sense, it would tell me that in order to get any stability to our children that we can, that we mask up and we play,” board member Meryia Stickler said. “Do I like it? No. But I want our children to have as much opportunity for stability of their normal activities as we can possibly give them.”

Slappey agreed.

“If we can find a way to keep our spectators, plus our participants safe, we can find a way to make this work,” he said. “ … I’m not asking people to like it, I’m not asking people to understand it … and instead of working against us, work with us.”

District Re-2 is now in the process of developing fan protocols for live games, said Oldham.

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Winter high school sports to officially begin in Garfield County on Jan. 18

Coal Ridge’s Moises Contreras glides to the basket during a boys game against Grand Valley in late January 2020.Kyle Mills / Post Independent

Ben Kirk already has a plan for tip-off time.

The Coal Ridge High School athletic director will climb to the top of the bleachers, take a seat and simply soak it all in.

“These kids have been waiting for a long time,” the Coal Ridge High School athletics director said. “I’m ready to get our gyms full and kids in there doing their stuff and getting back to action.”

In late December, high schools across Garfield County and Colorado were given some great news. The Colorado High School Activities Association announced that, by securing a variance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the winter sports season could officially commence on Jan. 18.

Operations section chief for Garfield County’s COVID-19 response team Zac Sutherland said all schools returning to winter sports must follow guidelines put in place by the CDPHE. Those guidelines are determined by the specific COVID-19 dial metric in which any county falls under.

For example, up to 50 participants will be allowed at one time during boys swimming meets and 25 participants for wrestling meets, Sutherland said. High school basketball games, meanwhile, should allow 24 players, including coaches and trainers, in a gym at one time.

As for spectators?

“It really depends on the sport and what the setup is,” Sutherland said. “If it’s indoors, obviously having spectators makes things more difficult. Then we need to look at the social distancing calculator, make sure that we’re starting within capacity, in that respect.”

Nevertheless, after a number of delays and tedious season schedule tweaks, high school coaches across the state will be happily inundated with hockey, skiing, girls swimming, wrestling, competitive spirit and of course basketball practices.

“I am so pumped to start basketball and just hear the kids and their squeaky shoes on the floor and basketballs bouncing and wrestlers in there getting after it,” Kirk said.

No doubt, Colorado high school sports have experienced an unprecedented rollercoaster ride of emotions since the pandemic began.. The spring 2020 season was of course canceled. By fall, a confusing, disharmonious start to high school seasons were also burdened by what team, in what particular county, could actually play.

“I am so pumped to start basketball and just hear the kids and their squeaky shoes on the floor and basketballs bouncing and wrestlers in there getting after it,” Ben Kirk

For instance, cross country programs across Garfield County ran their tails off this fall. Local volleyball was sidelined.

To add more fuel to the fire, the winter sports season was originally slated to begin Jan. 4. Then earlier in December, that start date got pushed back to Feb. 1.

This means an abrupt switch to Jan.18. Although the earlier date was welcomed with open arms by high school athletics directors and coaches, it poses somewhat of a logistical labyrinth for everyone behind the scenes.

“When it moved to Jan 18, it was like, ‘heck yeah,’” Kirk said. “One kid texted me and said, ‘It’s a Christmas miracle.’”

Grand Valley High School Athletic Director Dave Walck is also looking forward to living out this miracle.

“I think it’s been a long coming,” he said. “It’s just been hard to sit and wait and watch kids not get to do what kids need to do.”

For Walck, some of the more challenging aspects of navigating his way through a COVID-19 sports season has been simply trying to encourage student athletes to stay on top of things. “I’ve learned to be patient through this process and just remembering everything we’re doing is for the kids,” he said.

Kirk said Coal Ridge should see practices being conducted in pods of 10 people or less. This should include one coach and nine athletes. Any more would violate the COVID-19 dial implemented by the state.

And with the first set of games and meets scheduled for Jan. 25, that leaves about a week for training and preparation. Still, Kirk said his student athletes have already been hard at it anyway.

“Right now our gyms and our weight room are pretty much busy all day long, with 10 kids at a time for an hour,” he said.

As for the seasons themselves, they’ve essentially been sliced by more than a quarter. For Coal Ridge, a typical 23-game season has now dropped down to 14 games. Grand Valley boys basketball amassed 20 games last season. The new switch abbreviated that to 12 games.

In addition, local sports fans will have to cheer their favorite athletes on via live stream.

“Bottom line is, I just want to see kids get into a uniform, get out on the field of competition and give it their best, and I will be a happy, happy soul,” Walck said.

In other words, people are starving for sports right now.

“I bet the number of people that are following sports and watching sports is going to skyrocket because of this,” Kirk said of sports coming back. “Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to pack our gyms because I think right now we would.”

But despite the hurdles, excitement for the season is palpable.

“This is going to sound cliche, but I’m a fan of kids,” he said. “I get a little emotional just thinking about it. This is why I’m here, so I can be part of these kids’ experiences.”

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Coal Ridge shortstop to become first Titan to play in college

Coal Ridge had never seen a baseball player continue their playing career in college.

A shortstop who’s 5-foot-6, depending on who you ask, wasn’t supposed to be the one to break the glass ceiling. Jared Lund’s height is too often the first thing people notice. Opposing fans, players and even recruiters have talked about it. They’ve even used it to discount his talent.

The thing detractors don’t see is the work that Lund has put in, dating all the way back to fifth grade. He’s played above his age group nearly every year. When the player pool went from middle schoolers to high schoolers, he even won the starting shortstop gig as a freshman.

Now he’s committed to Minnesota West Community & Technical College. Awaiting him are at least four players vying for the same position. He’ll have to overcome them with a year off dragging him back.

It doesn’t matter.

“I’ve always loved being the underdog,” Lund said. “That just makes you hungry. That makes me want to prove people wrong. There’s nothing I can do about my height, about my size really, but what I can change is my attitude towards the game and how I choose to play.”

In just his first season, Lund put together a .340 batting average and .485 on-base percentage in 19 games. The latter tally was the lowest he put up in three years as the Titans’ voice in the infield and leadoff hitter.

He also pitched, and well. Lund had a 3.62 earned run average in 77.1 innings across 27 appearances for the club.

Lund did anything he could to help the team.

“He’s a guy that leads the cheers at the end of the game, he leads the stretching,” Titans’ head coach Dan Larsen said. “He’ll call people out if they’re not working as well.”  

At one point, Lund even had to call himself out. After taking an accelerated class as a junior, he became ineligible because of the grades he was earning. All the while, he was dealing with problems at home – mainly the divorce of his parents.

The cancelled senior season will affect both his road into college and his road out of high school.

“My junior year was a tough year for me,” Lund said. “Having all of these new problems to deal with, I wasn’t the most motivated I’ve been. Now that I don’t get a senior year of baseball, it’s overwhelming. I ended my career on a year I wouldn’t have wanted.

“I had the entire offseason of baseball and I wanted to come back and be the player that everyone looked up to.”

Helping Lund has been his father, Glen. Glen was the assistant coach at Coal Ridge dating back to Jared’s eighth grade year and coached him in Little League since his time on the region’s All-Star team.

“The age thing, at the beginning, was really about opportunity,” Glen said. “He made the All-Stars and he was the youngest of the kids on that team – he wasn’t going to play. When you get to play with older kids, I feel you get better because you’re playing up. You’re not stagnant. You don’t think you’re the better player, so you have to work harder.”

Going into college, Jared faces a similar situation.

At Minnesota West, the roster is large. Jared will once again be one of the youngest in a large pool of players.  

Now that he’s on to a bigger and better team, Jared is excited for the opportunity to compete against guys with a similar drive.

“I’m excited for the chemistry of the team,” Jared said. “In high school, a lot of kids play the sport just to play the sport – they don’t really care for the game like I do. I’m just excited because all of these kids have worked to get to the college level. They enjoy it, they love the game.

“I love the competition.”

sports@postindependent.com

Glenwood Springs linebacker commits to Lake Forest College

Kelton McPherson played a lot. He played three sports in high school, all the way from ice hockey to lacrosse to football.

The latter of the three will now be his avenue to an education as he recently committed to Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois.

McPherson plans to compete for a starting defensive spot once he arrives.

“My dream scenario is to obviously start my freshman year and play all four years,” McPherson said. “But, one thing I’m excited for — since I have been a three-year starter, I haven’t had as much competition for our starting position — that (competition) is one thing that I look forward to a lot.”

In his time at Glenwood Springs High School, McPherson played linebacker. He was also named a captain his senior year and played nearly every snap.

Free time for McPherson largely consisted of just as much competition, only with his five siblings, instead of opponents. Lately, he’s even competed with his brother in the weight room. The drive isn’t new to his former head coach, Pat Engle.

“Kelton is a coach’s dream as a football player,” Engle said. “He’s an aggressive, mature and intelligent football player. He was kind of the heart and soul of our teams.”

McPherson even gives credit to his family for that impact.

“My dad taught me to be very competitive,” McPherson said. “He was my hockey coach, and me and my brother are 11 months apart. So, we have had a lot of competitions with each other and definitely have always thought we had to one-up each other.”

Though he has yet to depart for Illinois, McPherson’s already begun participating in the team’s workout program. Alongside him has been his brother, Nolan.

With all of the family impact on his athletic life, the decision to head to Lake Forest was put squarely on Kelton’s shoulders.

“We have a large family of children and they all have their own strengths and passions,” Kelton’s mother, Lisa, said. “It’s at the point right now where he needs to do what makes his heart happy. He needs to have the path that is best for him so that he’s happy and successful.

“And in all, it was what fit best for him, because we’ve always encouraged them to try as many things as possible and to pursue what makes (them) happy and fulfilled.”

Ahead, Kelton will head to the Midwest once the country opens back up. Behind him, he leaves a legacy as a Demons’ football stalwart.

“Kelton is just an all-day tough kind of kid,” Engle said. “I think that when you look at someone, and the word that you describe (with is) tough — there’s not too many kids that don’t want that description.”

sports@postindependent.com